Advent Message

There is no limit to the Wholeness He will bring.  As we ride sometimes on a roller coaster and sometimes in slow motion, we catch of glimpse of our own faith.  Maybe from a mirror reflection.  Perhaps from a relationship.  Sometimes in tangible moments with God.

I have seen glimpses of myself recently.  I had the very honest moment of speaking out loud the fear I have been holding onto for as long as I can remember.  I have been brave on many occasions.  I even have a large well of peace and calm that the people I am close to see in me.  But, at the floor of it all, I have stored fear.

Ruth is my personal hero.  I always think of her on the threshing floor speaking truth in the dark night to Boaz.  I like to think I would do the same under the same set of circumstances.  And, I probably would.  But, there on the floor, I would still be holding onto my fear.

Something happened the last few days.  Because God is good, He had no plan for me to store up my fear until kingdom come.  I unexpectedly spoke my fear out loud to someone I trust.  She prayed and prayed and I listened and listened.

If you are whole, there is no fear.  I used to be afraid about things that are too personal to share here.  I have gifts in me to give and it’s okay that some may not want them.  I have faith in the future of my kids despite my imperfect life.  I used to be afraid but that is gone now.  I am not in chains anymore.  Ultimately, I am free to love God as my Savior.

I have always believed in the miracles of the holiday season.  I am embracing Advent in a way I have not before.  I came across Isaiah 9:2-7 in the Message.  He is the Prince of Wholeness and there will be no limits to the wholeness He brings.  If you are speeding or in slow motion this season, catch of glimpse of your faith.  There is no better time of year to let go of the bottom of you and let Whole seep in to every part of yourself.  There is no limit to the Wholeness He has for you.  Go ahead and believe in December miracles.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

For those who lived in a land of deep shadows — light! sunbursts of light!

You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy.

Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!

Festival joy!

The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.

The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants —

all their whips and cudgels and curses —

Is gone, done away with, a deliverance as surprising

and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.

The boots of all those invading troops, along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,

Will be piled in a heap and burned, a fire that will burn for days!

For a child has been born — for us!

the gift of a son — for us!

He’ll take over the running of the world.

His names will be:

Amazing Counselor,

Strong God,

Eternal Father,

Prince of Wholeness.

His ruling authority will grow,

and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.

He’ll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom.

He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going

With fair dealing and right living, beginning now and lasting always.

The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.

Isaiah 9:2-7

The unlikely seemingly partners: Joy and Pain by Chris Sweet

I am a notoriously optimistic positive person (the sickening kind).  I hate feeling sadness and grief. I have this weird belief that if I go through a difficult moment in life and I get all sad and stuff that I am a failure at Christianity.  Yup not joking.

So when I went through my recent tragedy and I got depressed. I felt like a failure for feeling depressed.  I started apologizing to God for not being happy through my storm.  I felt again a mess.

But He’s been teaching me about pain and joy being like family members to each other.  These emotions need each other although both really don’t want to hang out with the other because each thinks the other is cramping their style (or swag).   Isn’t that so typical of family relationships?  Often family members love each other but there are moments when they may not want the other there all the time.

Rob Bell, Christian author, says beautifully thatPeople moving towards each other, lamenting together, this is where God is.”   Isn’t that beautiful? As we express sorrow and our pain together, God is present.  We need to know what pain is to be able to recognize joy.  “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”  Anne Bradstreet, poet.

Margaret Manning Shull author and teacher of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries describes perfectly the description of the tug of war for Christians.  She says, “For Christians, ‘being happy’ can often resemble the language of victorious living and resurrection, to the exclusion of Jesus’s matter-of-fact instruction to his followers that in this world ‘you will have trouble, but I have overcome this world.’(1) I too easily forget that many who have gone before me as that great cloud of witnesses did not yet receive what was promised.(2) They, too, lived in a land of ‘maybe,’ and in the bittersweet juxtaposition of joy and sorrow.”

So let’s welcome the full range of emotions as we deal with difficulties and be ok with feeling those feelings.  Brene Brown, best-selling author, says:  “When you numb your pain you also numb your joy.” Sadness and pain have their time and season.   But don’t give up.  Remember God has you even as you are feeling the full extent of loss and pain.  Each difficult time has the potential for you to learn the tools needed for the next difficult event. And when the joyful moments come (because they will) allow yourself to feel that too and appreciate its time with you.  It’s time for us to welcome the dynamic of joy and pain at the family table together.

Read more at:

Thinking of Palm Fronds

By JMathis

Reflecting on the many uses of palm fronds today.

Palm fronds screaming with rockstar abandon, “Hosanna in the highest!!”

Palm fronds dusting off the cobwebs of my hidden sins and deepest shame.

Palm fronds exalting high the Name of all Names: King Jesus, my Savior!

Palm fronds sweeping away the pride of life from the pathways to my heart.

Palm fronds bowing before Him, humbled by how fiercely He loves.

Palm fronds shaking off the filth of my biases, prejudices and my “judgy eyes”.

Palm fronds swaying to the voices of angels, dancing like Wild King David.

Palm fronds brushing off muck from years of thoughtlessness and apathy.

Palm fronds nudging me towards worship and closer intimacy with My Father.

Palm fronds mopping away tears of regret, sorrow and remorse.

Palm fronds lifting My Redeemer to the highest realms of praise and adoration.

Palm fronds blowing off my years of cruelty, disregard and callousness.

Palm fronds standing tall before Him, victoriously waving flags of Healing and Deliverance. Salvation and Joy. Goodness and Justice. Miracles Unending.

Palm fronds loosening the worldly ties that bind my soul to darkness.

Palm fronds leading the procession of The Widows, The Orphans, The Abused, The Mistreated, The Neglected, The Abandoned and all those He holds tightly to His heart.

I lay my palm fronds on the dirt roads of my innermost self, Lord, giving way so that You reign over my thoughts, words, actions and dreams.

I offer my palm fronds to You as an act of my reverence, submission and devotion.

Use those palm fronds to cleanse and wipe away anything that is not of You.


Pray, Joy, Thanks: My New Mantra

By Chris Sweet, guest contributor

God has been teaching me about feeling the joys of life while pain is present.  I’ve learned that His love is in the reflection of the shattered pieces of glass reflecting our brokenness.  It’s the glimpse of light on its shards.  The broken edge reflects the Creator’s loving gaze, who picks us up, roots for us to get up, heals us, and showers us with grace and mercy.

I’ve been encouraged by amazing books on the topic of loss and finding joy such as those written by Dr. Mary C. Neal and Pastor Levi Lusko who themselves have suffered unimaginable loss.   Dr. Neal wrote the book “To Heaven and Back” and Pastor Lusko wrote “Through the Eyes of a Lion”.  Dr. Neal died and went to heaven and returned to tell her story about Jesus, heaven and the angels.  She also suffered the loss of her son.  Pastor Lusko suffered the loss of his daughter.  The tragedies suffered by both are our worst nightmares.  But they talk about Jesus and their interaction with Him and the hope and healing He provides.  Dr. Neal in an interview said that the verses that were pressed into her spirit when she returned back to her body after dying were simple but powerful:

Pray without Ceasing 1 Thess 5:17

Be Joyful Always 1Thess 5:16

Give Thanks in All Circumstances  1 Thess 5:18

I love this simple mantra so much (Pray! Joy! Thanks!) that I wanted to share it with you.  When he lost his daughter, Pastor Lusko reflected on the assurance that what can’t be seen with the naked eye is being also worked out by God.  He states in his book that “This is the war:  every moment of every day, we must make the all-important choice of whether we will rely on the naked eye.  Will we trust what we can see is there, or believe what God says is there?  …  The apostle Paul put it this way:  ‘So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.’  2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT.”

We have all suffered such tragedies in our own lives.  Remind yourself that Jesus loves you.  Hold on to the things that cannot be seen.  He is always working behind the scenes of your life.  His intent toward us is love. Take the verses in the Bible as God’s promises to you that He has you.  And as we continue our days on earth in whatever form and with whatever condition, let us hold these verses as our mantra “Pray without ceasing, be joyful always, and give thanks in all circumstances.”  Here are some ideas for living that mantra:

Pray without ceasing.  Have an open conversation with God that starts in the morning and just talk to him throughout the day and ending in the evening before you go to bed.

Live with Joy.  Laugh, tell jokes and enjoy conversations with family and friends.  Take a moment and look at nature and appreciate the beauty in this world.  Do things that make you happy and try to figure out ways to make others happy (e.g. by sending that encouraging text message).

Be grateful.  Tell God all the things you are grateful for.  Have your family and friends name off things that they are grateful for when you get together.

And, don’t give up on your dreams that God has whispered to you from the time you were born.  Do your mission and live “Pray! Joy! Thanks!”  (Love it, love it, love it).

Our Cord

By JMathis

How far back does Our Cord go, Father?

Far before I cried out to You in despair on so many nights? Far before The Towers Fell? Far before childhood innocence gave way to teenage angst? Far before the glee of my fire-engine red tricycle?

Does Our Cord go back even further than the lifeline of my own mother’s umbilical cord?

How did You gaze at me in The Womb? With wonder? Excitement? Expectation? Bemusement? Where did You think I would fit into Your Plan for humanity? Am I right now where You envisioned me to be? Will I ever get there? Soon, I hope?

Did Our Cord go back to when my ancestors heard The Word and breathed You into their lives?

Was I in Your mind as You watched my 8-year old great-great-grandmother chase after dragonflies in her bare feet? Did you whisper something into her spirit about Our Cord, causing her to follow one path versus another? The path that led to You?

When Your Son bled and died, did Our Cord come to mind? Did You anguish over sacrificing Him for me? Was there ever regret, or was Our Cord always the joy set before You?

As You fashioned the earth with Your hands, did Our Cord factor into Your design of the Florida beaches? Just knowing how much I adore and exalt them as Your handiwork?

When there was darkness in the expanse, was Our Cord something that gave You hope and inspiration? Did You draw Our Cord into the night stars, waiting for the day I would crave intimacy with You?

I see today how far back Our Cord goes, Father.

I see now how Our Cord traveled over the time-space continuum, defying obstacle after obstacle over the course of my historical and spiritual lineage–through the lives of my daughter, my husband, my parents, my sister, my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, my grandparents, my ancestors, Thomas, Peter, John, Stephen, James, Barnabas, Paul, Philip, Mark, Daniel, Esther, David, Deborah, Moses, Abraham, Noah, Adam and Eve.

I see Our Cord in the battle between light and darkness, and I see that Your Love prevails.

Your Love is in the very design, fabric and fiber of Our Cord, and that means Our Cord will never be broken, bent or shattered.

I hang onto Our Cord, assured that through You, my life overflows with Your healing, deliverance, forgiveness, safety, peace, refuge, salvation, life everlasting and Love.

Our Cord is the story of Love. Your story and mine, Father. To You, forever, I cling.

Love in the Time of Pain

By JMathis

I wish your heart was not so wounded from the pain caused by your loved ones. I wish that your family could be a source of comfort to you, rather than the source of your distress and anguish. I wish that our words would bring us together, rather than tear us apart.

Until that day, I wish you love unspeakable. May your soul be mended by the love of the Father who adores you beyond comprehension. Who knows every birthmark on your body. Who delights every time your eyes twinkle with mischief and laughter. Who longs to wipe away those tears you masterfully hide from everyone but yourself.

I pray that His love envelop you in comfort and consolation, in ways that your family cannot. May His words revive you and give you life, especially when the words of your loved ones create so much confusion and conflict.

Allow your Father to turn your mourning into dancing, and to heal the soul strings of your grieving spirit. Let His songs transform the sackcloth of your broken heart into a safe and nurturing cocoon of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Never give up hope that your family can change to become your greatest champions. That they may love you in a way that is not destructive or damaging. That their words lift you up rather than fracture you apart. That they may come to know the Father and bear the fruits of His Spirit.

May He heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. May He cure your pains and your sorrows. Psalm 147:3

Know that you are love, you are light, you are His. You are an overcomer, you are a conqueror, you are His. You are treasured, you are cherished, you are His.

You are you, you are ours, but most importantly, you are His.

You are loved.

Riding the Storm: Warrior Mindset

Mindset of a Warrior

By Chris Sweet, guest contributor, leadership trainer guru, life is awesome consultant, and oh-so-cool parent

Argh.  I sighed surveying the seemingly endless dark, steep walls around me.  Oxygen seemed to be leaving the room slowly after I got thrown into the ditch by my enemy.  The fight I was just in was longer than one I have ever experienced in my life.  Every part of me was impacted severely.  I felt my emotional, physical and spiritual break apart under the weight of the experience I was going through.  I laid down.  “God, “ I sighed.  “Do you love me?”  I started sobbing as the weight of my enemy’s memory sat on my chest.  The enemy mocked me, lied about me, and choked every part of me until what was remaining of me was slight.  I read through scripture, listened to sermons and I tried to do the right thing as the attack continued.  As it continued, the truth kept me grounded.  The truth kept my eyes on Christ.  As my life sometimes felt like it was draining out of me during my trial, my center felt safe in Him.  Even though my mind and brain was processing the devastation and asking the questions of why to God, the Holy Spirit calmed my angst and reminded me of His love.  He spoke through the books I read, my friends who prayed alongside me and the pastors I listened to.  I took each word, each encouragement and put it around me as bandage each day as I woke up to a new day of pain during my trial.  Life is hard.  No question about that.

I wish I could have told you that I was a rockstar and said “Thank you God” and didn’t once question His love and why.  But I did.  I did. I think that God wants you to have real conversation with Him.  He already knows your heart.  Nothing that we say is a surprise to Him.  I’ve had to remind myself of that repeatedly.  God loves me.  His intentions are love and to protect me.  This world is chaotic.  I am subject to the choices made by the people in it.  And, I’ve learned that the warrior mind is not to run from the war or battle ahead which could be our version of personal issues at work, family or life.  But to do our part in it and chose to be courageous.

So, how do we stay focused right in the midst of the battle?

  1. Remind yourself of God’s love towards you and He will bless you for living right.

God’s curse blights the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. He gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder, but if you’re down on your luck, he’s right there to help. Wise living gets rewarded with honor; stupid living gets the booby prize. Proverbs 3:34 (MSG)

I’ve written verses down on post-it notes and carried it with me during the work day so I could be reminded of God’s promises.  I’ve captured phrases or words in books on paper so I could be forced to change how I view what I am going through and change my actions as a result.

  1. Read books and tap into resources from experts on battling your mind, strengthening your mental health, keeping physically strong and strengthening your spiritual armor.

Thank goodness that God created experts in these fields of survival and there are books out there to help.

  1. Change the filter through which you view what you are going through. It’s easy to be caught up in self-pity.  I’ve done it.

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.” ― Carlos Castaneda

If you change your filter on how you are viewing what is happening to you as a challenge, suddenly the challenge has purpose.

  1. Practice gratitude.  Praise God for the trial so that it can be used to develop you.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (MSG)

“Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worse times of your life – fosters resilience.” Amy Morin, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round”,

Continue your mission to ride the storm courageously.  Consider each trial a time to practice what you’ve learned and to reassess the habits and tools you use in crisis and to change them if necessary.


“13 things mentally strong people don’t do” by Amy Morin

“The Secret Power of Speaking God’s Word” by Joyce Meyer’


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